Time passed, and there were many, many reality shows, all offering their contestants the chance to humiliate themselves before the people in that show’s special way. Whether it was because they were unable to read directions, lacked anything vaguely resembling social skills, couldn’t spot a clue if it was jumping up and down in front of them wearing a special hint-covered jumpsuit from the Not-Anderson collection, had never learned the difference between gas and diesel tanks, or had once dated Fabio, anyone could come forward for their apportioned dose of self-dispensed agony. And it was good.
Well, it wasn’t good, but it did keep us occupied.
And then one day, a reality TV producer had a thought. (Since he was a producer for FOX, the novelty of it almost overwhelmed him – but unhappily, his near-total lack of short-term memory protected him from being lost in an endless loop of amazement at his own mental prowess.) And the thought was this: throughout the storied history of reality television, people had only been allowed to humiliate themselves for a set period of time. Thirteen episodes, gone. Seven episodes, gone. Two-part ‘special’ due to complete lack of sponsor interest combined with a desperate need to recoup any part of the costs – gone. Oh, sometimes they would come back in a different series, and the thought of an all-star lineup of stupidity, arrogance, and future parasitic infections had occurred to some, but for the most part – gone.
And the producer, who didn’t understand how the viewers really felt about the contestants, decided this was a bad thing.
‘Let us gather a new group of people to humiliate,’ he said. ‘Let us promise them that they can stay on our reality show for as long as they can manage to please us – and of course, the only thing that can please us will be their humiliation. And for those who truly debase themselves, the reward will be just as we promised. They can stay – and stay – and stay – until such time as ratings do them part. And the viewers will tune in week after week, wanting only to see if the contestants can find even greater depths to sink to, and we will never be miserly in passing out the underwater drills…’
Well, actually, he just said ‘Must fill hole on Thursday nights until CSI and Apprentice die out. Must be really, really cheap. Must put saved money into own pocket, new toupee, and trophy wife.’ But the writers understood what he meant.
And thus, a few months later, a relative innocent looked at Reality TV World's "Other Shows" discussion boards, saw a new series starting up which had the curious title of Forever Eden, and foolishly volunteered to write the first summary, still under the delusion that the more pain which was suffered through, the better the chances of getting on the Survivor 9 list.
And was I ever dumb.
But – I’m stuck with it. And really, it’s only an hour. How much stupidity could FOX possibly air in an hour? Admittedly, about six times as much as any other network can manage during that span, but it’s still a finite amount. I’ve listened to sports talk radio for longer periods. Of my own free will, no less. How bad could this be?
…did anyone else hear thunder just now?
Huh. Must have been a truck backfiring.
Just be warned: this is going to be long. We’re establishing a new series, such as it is, and as such, there’s a lot of groundwork to lay. (Just think: in April, after the cancellation is announced, a future generation may come here to learn exactly where things started to go wrong.) Pushing Play…
We open with the background of Generic Tropical Paradise #15 and a computer graphic showing a snake encircling a obviously steroid-fortified Granny Smith. I didn’t realize the Washington Red Consortium was too powerful to offend…
And here’s our host. We’re going to be seeing a lot of her. Come to think of it, she’s going to be seeing a lot of this show and very little of the rest of the world. When your show’s potential run time is ‘forever’, scheduling vacation time is a problem.
‘Welcome to Eden – a place you’ve only ever dreamed of,’ says our host, Ruth England, whose accent is exactly what you’d expect from that last name and whose wardrobe is exactly what you’d expect from FOX: minimal. (Her introduction is performed by a green bar on the screen with a small snake-apple recap off to the left.) ‘This is a unique television experiment. A reality show without an end.’
(Pause while the summary writer experiences a moment of horrific synergy between the baseline Forever Eden concept and The Truman Show, followed by a desperate scramble for the TV listings. Happily, there’s no twenty-four hour bar streaming across the page with the note ‘Forever Eden continues’ and the subscript ‘Special reports on increase in suicide rate may break into regularly scheduled programming.’ Pushing Play…)
‘The goal is to stay here as long as possible,’ Ruth tells us while the camera provides shots of Generic Tropical Resort With Nothing Available To Do #12. ‘For the longer you stay in Eden, the more money you’ll make.’ (Shot of the apple snake moving through faux gold coins. Apparently theft won’t be much of a risk.) We’re then reminded of the basic concept again – you can stay three weeks, months, years, as long as you can follow whatever the rules turn out to be – and the money will keep piling up. (A little bit redundant early, but they’re trying to establish their base, so it’s somewhat forgivable.) This is followed by shots of a few contestants arriving by pole-powered bamboo raft. The one being steered by Mogo Mogo makes it to shore without difficulty, while the Sabogan one dissolves in midstream and dumps its passenger into the river. For some reason, those coming in on the Chapera transport can’t seem to leave it fast enough.
The contestants then have to sever their ties with friends, family, and the world outside the resort, represented by having them burn a few things in a ceremonial fire. Pictures. Passports. Driver license. Proof of citizenship. Birth certificate. Just those nagging little details that would ordinarily keep FOX from being able to claim them as slaves and own everything they say and do for the rest of their miserable lives. (To be fair, that’s arguably better than trying to get through all the forms and lines required to get those documents back, but still…) The new pieces of property will have all their needs taken care of, except for those that relate to friends, family, and being able to establish a legal existence. But will they be able to deal with the twists and turns of trying to stay in – Eden?
I swear that was thunder.
The opening credits roll, and we’re treated to pictures of the cast captured in the apple as snakes slither by. (They’re really giving this theme an early workout.) We’re also treated to Entry #2 in that sparkling-new Emmy category, ‘Worst Theme Song’ -- for a given value of ‘treated’ – and Teen Titans now has serious competition. As far as my senses were willing to continue operation, it seemed to go something like this.
You were waiting on tables No one would cosign a loan You couldn’t think of other options So you picked up the telephone You’re stuck on Fox now, enslaved to the box now Worse than a bio-dome The sewer’s your new home
And now, a special programming note: since thirty percent of the time in any FOX reality show is spent in telling you what’s going to happen in five minutes, what happened five minutes ago, and in case you’ve gotten caught up in the show, what the normal definition of ‘five minutes’ is as opposed to the stretched-out perception of time that takes place during any period of barbaric torture, I will not be summarizing the precaps, recaps, and ‘It’s amazing how many replays we got in the first day’ fillers unless they’re essential to the plot. This is because we’re on Page X and we haven’t hit the actual episode yet. You’ll thank me later.